Church focuses on future

First Posted: 2/29/2012

Rev. Bill Carter has served as pastor of The First Presbyterian Church of Clarks Summit for 22 years and “he is just getting unpacked.”

“This is a congregation of people who are always nudging their pastor (Rev. Carter) to get more and more involved in more and more mission projects that make a constructive difference in people’s lives,” said Rev. Carter. The church is open 24/7 in “a crazy and almost maddening way,” he said .

The congregation has sent its people to Haiti, dispatches teams of volunteers to the St. Francis of Assisi Soup Kitchen. The day following the 2011 flooding, approximately 16 church members arrived in West Pittston with buckets in hand to assist . Rev. Carter said that the church relies on creative forms to communicate its faith through a variety of arts and music programs that “consistently receive grant funding from the county and the state to produce arts events.”

The year 2012 is a year of celebration for Rev. Carter and members of the congregation of the “church on the hill.” While this is indeed a Centennial year, he emphasized that his church is a “church that doesn’t spend much time at all thinking about its past. What it cares about is the present, God, its community, and its people, and does this in a lot of lively and engaging ways.”

Rev. Carter described the founding congregation of the church by “a missionary family that decided they wanted to have their own outpost of faith in this little railroad town.” He added, “The congregation began with a few different dynamics. It was that kind of fervor of global outreach, and at the same time, it was some of the movers and shakers in the local economy – Newman, Nichols and Bunnell, who were very supportive…”

According to church historians, John Pittman and Don Keen, who are compiling information as part of an ongoing history project using church documents and memorabilia, on August 3, 1911, Margaret Gibbons invited several women from the Clarks Summit community to her home for the express purpose of organizing a Christian missionary outreach. Approximately one year later on Aug. 23, 1912, a organization called the Dorcas (Greek for Tabitha) Society, was formed to look into the possibilities of starting a church. Anna Coleman became president. These two women’s groups soon reached 100 members who approached the Presbytery in Towanda, who requested approval to proceed with plans for a new Presbyterian Church in Clarks Summit.

The first congregational meeting was held October 11, 1912 and there were 105 charter members. The Nickelette Building, located in the vicinity of the former Comerford Theater, which today houses the Citizen’s Plaza, served as a temporary place of worship until a permanent church could be built. At a meeting of the congregation Nov. 12, 1912, two brothers, Nelson N. Nichols and George H. Nichols donated a piece of land on the east side of South State Street, formerly known as Northern Electric Blvd. They offered to sell the church an adjacent lot for $500. The Dorcas Society purchased and presented it to the Church. Approximately one year later, on Aug. 13, 1913, to get away from the dust and noise of the trains, the lots were exchanged for two larger parcels on School Street.

The church was formed at a time when there was no Presbyterian church in the Abingtons, according to Keen. One of the ways members are celebrating the centennial is through a program known as “The Year of the Bible,” which began in early January. Currently, 91 people have accepted the challenge to read the entire bible in one year.

Linda Young, Centennial co-chair, said regarding the Year of the Bible, “From the very beginning, we have wanted this Centennial Celebration to be less about the past, more about the present and most about the future.”

Centennial Committee members are Linda Young, Co-chair; Wayne Griffiths, Co-Chair; Rev. Bill Carter, pastor; Don Keen, History; Jack Pittman, History; Bev Bright, Special Events; Melba Fialko, Special Services; JoAnne Shepherd, Special Services; Debbie Shane, Fundraising; Linda Schuller, Address Committee; Barbara Pittman, Address Committee; Carol Winn, Centennial Picnic/Camping at Camp Lackawanna; Brian Schillinger, Capital Campaign; Jim McLaughlin, Treasurer; John Conklin, Membership; Jo Conklin, Publicity; and Sandra and Steuart Bailey.

On March 11, at 4 p.m., internationally renowned biblical storyteller, Dennis Dewey, will perform a one-person recital from memory of the “Gospel of Mark.” The event is planned by the Music & Worship Committee under the direction of Rev. Carter. For more information regarding upcoming centennial events, call 570.586.6306 or visit

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